“Boston Regional Challenge” Examines Combined Costs and Impact On Families, Neighborhoods and the Environment
BOSTON – (April 12, 2010)—Boston Regional Challenge, a new report released today by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing, finds that the average working household in the Boston region spends over $34,000 a year – or 54 percent of their income – on the combined costs of housing and transportation.
The report, produced in partnership with the Center for Housing Policy (CHP) and the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), provides a comprehensive analysis of the “cost of place” in 18 regions from southern New Hampshire to Worcester to Rhode Island by quantifying the burdens facing families in those regions to meet the number one and number two expenses – housing and transportation – and highlighting areas with extreme burdens where households spend more than 58% their income on these costs.
The combined costs of housing and transportation vary among the 18 regions examined, ranging from 48 percent of household income in MetroWest to 62 percent in the South Coast. The report finds that one in four households in the study area are located in neighborhoods in which there are extreme cost burdens. In Boston, the cost is 56 percent, due in part to the City’s extensive public transportation system. In fact, Boston had the lowest transportation cost of all the regions studied in the report.
“Within the Boston region, there are pockets where housing is affordable but transportation offsets those lower costs. Many people in the workforce—teachers, nurses, office workers—are forced to spend precious time and money commuting from the homes they can afford to the places where they work,” said ULI Terwilliger Center Chairman J. Ronald Terwilliger. “These findings reinforce that years of ever-sprawling development have resulted in a growing gap between where people live and where they work.” Terwilliger, Chairman Emeritus of Trammell Crow Residential, founded the Center in 2007 to help achieve a measurable increase in the supply of workforce housing in high-cost markets throughout the nation.
At the April 12 press conference in the Great Hall at Faneuil Hall, Terwilliger was joined by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and New England Regional HUD Director Richard Walega to announce the report and its companion Web site, www.BostonRegionalChallenge.org. In addition, they unveiled a new online Cost Calculator that families can use to accurately determine their combined housing and transportation costs based on where they live, where they work and how they commute.
“This report underscores the importance of broadening the understanding surrounding some of the challenges associated with housing affordability to also include transportation costs, travel time and the negative environmental impacts of commuting,” said Terwilliger. “We hope local, state and federal leaders will use this report to help guide future development, zoning and transportation decisions for this vital region.
“Over the past decade, Boston has built over 18,000 new units of housing; 9,000 of which are within walking distance to thousands of jobs,” said Mayor Menino. Going forward, we will continue to grow the City’s population by building housing that is innovative, close to jobs and public transportation, environmentally sustainable and affordable to Boston’s workforce.”
Boston Regional Challenge also demonstrates the unintended environmental impacts of these decisions. The successful implementation of greenhouse gas emission reduction plans in the transportation sector is particularly important in the Boston region, where transportation accounts for 41 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 33 percent nationally. As reported in Boston Regional Challenge, households in more densely populated areas like Boston proper produce less than half the total metric tons of CO2 per year than households in lower density areas—outside I-495 for example.
The report reinforces ULI’s emphasis on workforce housing as a key part of sustainable growth patterns for urban regions, said ULI Chief Executive Officer Patrick L. Phillips. “The ability of our cities to provide housing that is close to jobs is a major component of long-term sustainability and vitality,” Phillips said. “Where we build is just as important as what we build. The challenge for the land use industry is to build workforce housing where it’s needed.”
The complete report is available at the new Web site sponsored by the ULI Terwilliger Center: www.BostonRegionalChallenge.org. This site will continue to serve as a resource center of information to help individuals, households, planners, government officials and municipalities better understand the issues and true costs of housing and transportation. Included on the site is the Terwilliger Cost Calculator, which provides area residents with up-to-date data on housing and transportation costs that demonstrate the findings in Boston Regional Challenge on a personal level. Developed in partnership with CNT, this product allows users to input their own expenses to show their true burden as well as allows them to explore how to lower this by moving closer to their place of employment or to areas with better access to public transportation. The calculator helps consumers see the true combined costs of their housing and transportation decisions.
The release of the report was in conjunction with the ULI Real Estate Summit at the Spring Council Forum this week in Boston. The need to build workforce housing closer to employment centers is among many issues being discussed as part of ULI’s overall efforts to promote sustainable communities.
To view the report, go to: http://bostonregionalchallenge.org/the-report/
About the ULI Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing
The ULI Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing was established by J. Ronald Terwilliger, Chairman Emeritus of Trammell Crow Residential, to expand housing opportunities for working families. The mission of the Center is to act as a catalyst in increasing the availability of workforce housing by harnessing the power of the private sector. The Center supports the development of mixed-income communities close to employment centers and transportation hubs. Through a multifaceted approach, the Center facilitates research, advocates for public policy change, publishes best practices, convenes housing experts and works to eliminate regulatory barriers to the production of workforce housing.
About the Urban Land Institute
The Urban Land Institute (uli.org) is a global nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in sustaining and creating thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the Institute has nearly 33,000 members representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines.